Way to represent, Fremont.
Because you people up there northwest of Omaha are so good at throwing hissy fits -- at using the law as an excuse for dehumanizing your fellow man -- you've ended up in The New York Times. And now the whole damned country knows about Nebraska's crazy uncle in the attic.
And it's all because of a stupid little ordinance that will be really good at stirring up hate and s***, but not so good at stopping illegal immigration one iota.
This is ordinarily a serene place with polite politics and votes that sail through City Hall 8 to 0. But in a special election Monday, residents will decide whether to ban businesses from hiring illegal immigrants and bar landlords from renting to them. Residents demanded the vote, fighting off challenges by some of their elected leaders all the way to the State Supreme Court.NAW . . . the loss of good jobs never could be the result of your living in Fremont, a small city pretty much like all small cities in the lack of staggering levels of economic opportunity. No, that could never be the problem.
The election has opened a rare and raw divide. There are awkward silences for some who fear offending their neighbors (whose position they cannot be certain of), and, for others, volleys of suspicion.
Wanda Kotas, who pushed for the special election, said her family’s cat, Mr. Sippi, was killed by a pellet gun not long after her efforts, an act she suspects is related. Kristin Ostrom, who has spoken against the referendum, said a rock was heaved through her front window, an old barbecue grill was dumped at her doorstep, and, this week, an e-mail message arrived promising in red letters to “shed blood” to take back the country. And Alfredo Velez, who once worked at one of Fremont’s meatpacking plants and now owns a Mexican grocery, received an anonymous letter accusing him of harboring illegal immigrants, and said someone screamed at him on these neatly kept streets: “Go back to Mexico!”
The Hispanic population, while growing, still makes up less than 10 percent of Fremont, yet some say they blame illegal immigrants for what they see as a rise in crime here, the loss of good jobs for local residents and a shift in the culture.
Listen, you want an amazing, high-paying job? Get an MBA and move to Omaha.
Wait . . . on second thought, don't.
Some complain about shoppers speaking Spanish at the Wal-Mart, businesses with phone messages saying “Press 1 for English,” and the need for two interpreters last fall at the annual “kindergarten round-up” where children meet their teachers.WELL, YOU can't say the fine, all-American folks of Fremont have accomplished nothing with their quixotic little campaign against Pedro.
Perhaps these are ordinary growing pains for Midwestern cities like Fremont, anchored by meatpacking plants with many immigrant workers, some of whom residents here suspect of being in this country illegally.
But the struggle has taken an unusual turn. After Fremont’s political leaders rejected an ordinance intended to keep illegal immigrants out, residents fought back and insisted, finally getting approval in the Nebraska Supreme Court to take the matter straight to voters.
This is a legally complicated realm given the federal role in handling immigration; a lawsuit is all but certain if it passes. In other places where such immigration laws have been pondered (and often contested later), state lawmakers and local governing bodies have usually made the call, not citizens by referendum.
“In this very quiet little town where this hasn’t been an issue, it’s uncomfortable,” said Michelle Knapp, who opposes the anti-illegal immigrant law but acknowledges that she has at times only whispered her view. “You don’t know what people are listening.”
No, it takes moxie and skill to turn a peaceful little Midwestern town into a fear factory where people are terrified to say what they think. And it takes real imagination on the part of those "patriots" earnestly looking forward to a future where the most uttered phrase in Fremont, U.S.A., is "Your papers, please."